A few month’s back I was invited – actually, challenged – to visit Paris and London in just four or five days.
“Not possible,” I insisted. But I was willing to give it a try.
Here’s a slightly edited version of the story I wrote for Travel + Leisure with some ideas for how to do it.
To make this fast trip work, fly into one city and out of the
other, and book a seat on the high speed Eurostar train to
travel between the two.
Plenty of airlines fly between the US and both London and Paris
and it is possible to find deals on a one-way or open-jaw ticket using tools on
airline comparison sites or a knowledgeable travel advisor.
British Airways currently offers up to 50 flights from the U.S.
to London each day, depending on the season, from 26 U.S. gateways and will be adding
flights from both Pittsburgh and Charleston to London in April 2019. The
airline allows passengers to cut the cost of flights by using Avios points towards
Air France currently offers more than 150 flights a week to
Paris from 12 U.S. cities and is adding Dallas/Fort Worth as its 11th
U.S. gateway on March 31, 2019. The French flag carrier offers flash fares to Paris (and other
destinations) about once a month, so sign up to follow the carrier’s Facebook
and Twitter accounts.
Eurostar trains make the trip from city center to city center,
between London’s St. Pancras International
Station to Gare du Nord in Paris, in
just over 2 hours for a little as $60 each way. Eurostar ticket pricing
fluctuates like airline tickets, with the lowest prices usually offered for
midweek travel. Be sure to hold onto your boarding pass: it offers 2-for-1
entry to many museums and exhibitions in both cities.
Where to stay; what to do
London, there are lots of hotel to choose from right near St. Pancras International railway station, which is steps from
the British Library and its many free events and
exhibitions. Nearby is the Wellcome
hip and free science and health-themed museum that markets itself to the “incurably
Coal Drops Yard, built in 1850 to handle the eight million tons of
coal delivered to London each year, has been
transformed into the city’s newest trendy destination. Located in King’s Cross,
just a few minutes’ walk from St. Pancras, the shopping and dining center
boasts more than 50 stores, restaurants and cafés, including the flagship store
of Wolf &
gathers cool offerings from independent brands, and Casa Pastor, serving Mexican-inspired tacos,
alongside mezcals, Mexican beers and imaginative margaritas.
For convenience and a
hefty dose of the historic, splurge on a two-night stay at the St.
Pancras Renaissance Hotel, inside St. Pancras station. The “Seat to
Suite” package includes lounge access as well as a concierge escort between your
room and your seat on the Eurostar train, which departs from St. Pancras
If you’ll be heading back to the states from Paris, choose a
hotel in the city center that offers easy access to museums, café and other top
The newly renovated 97-room Renaissance
Paris Vendome Hotel, near the Tuileries Garden and the Louvre in the city’s historic 1st arrondissement
is a good option. Book a breakfast-included package (croissants galore!); seek
out nearby “hidden gems” suggested by the hotel’s “Navigator”; and let the
front desk book you a seat (preferably at the chef’s counter) in the hotel’s
Restaurant, which serves an ever-changing menu of Israeli-inspired
Middle Eastern meals.
You can save time by combining touring and fine dining by having
lunch or dinner at (or on) Ducasse sur Seine, chef Alain
Ducasse’s new restaurant on an electric boat offering diners a 90-minute cruise
on the Seine. Or board the Bustronome, a restaurant
inside a double-decker bus that drives by many of the city’s top sights during
a three-hour tour. (There’s a London version of this as well.)
You may not get your fill of croissants, baguettes, macarons or
other French pastries during a quick two-day visit, but you’ll learn some
professional French bakers’ tricks to take home during a gourmet walking tour
or a French breach-making class organized by a local tour group such as Meeting
Here are some snaps from a recent tour of the 540-seat lounge capping off a fast four-day visit to London and Paris that included a ride on the Eurostar as part of the #LondonParisNow campaign.
The bar – called “Le Balcon” – was designed by Mathieu Lehanneur and is self-serve much of the day, but from 6:30 p.m. to about 10 p.m. there’s a bartender on duty mixing up a menu of specialty-created cocktails.
Photo _ Harriet Baskas
The wellness area include restrooms with saunas, 20-minute complimentary Clarins spa services, a ‘detox’ bar with healthy potions and a quiet rest area with day beds.
Detox bar at CDG Air France lounge . Photo _Harriet Baskas
Detox potions at Air France CDG lounge. Photo Harriet Baskas
There’s also a special play for kids and a ‘Petit Salon’ area offering extra privacy for special guests:
Air France lounge at CDG – Kids area. Photo-Harriet Baskas
And then, of course, there’s food. In addition to a self-serve buffet, there’s a “Gourmet Table” where a chef prepares a ‘dish of the day’:
Air France says this is what passengers can look forward to in other cities where the lounges are scheduled to be upgraded as well.
Three new flights kicked off over the weekend that I wish I’d been on!
Air France began nonstop service to Paris from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Sunday, March 25.
The service adds to Delta’s flights between SEA and CDG and kicks off with three times a week service (Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays) on a Boeing 777-200 and increases to five times a week (adding Mondays and Tuesdays) during the summer season.
Air France first served Sea-Tac between 2007-2012, when that route was given taken over by Delta.
On Saturday, March 24, United Airlines kicked off seasonal nonstop daily service on a 787-8 Dreamliner between Denver and London Heathrow (LHR).
And over the weekend Qantas completed the inaugural – historic – flight for direct service between Perth, Australia and London. The 787-9 Dreamliner made the journey in ‘just’ 17 hours and 14 minutes.
Air France (launching flights between Seattle and Paris this weekend) is rolling out a cute campaign focusing not on its business or first class amenities – but on what it gives to economy pass passengers.
And what other airlines don’t.
Noting that ‘budget’ carriers offer low prices but minimal amenities, the “Take a Chance or Fly Air France” campaign touts the fact that economy class passengers on Air France pay low prices but also get amenities such as in-flight entertainment, warm meals, and champagne.
To make the point, Air France has made up give-away boxes containing items that may be useful to passengers flying economy class on other airlines:
5 foot scroll of Sudoku puzzles for flights without free entertainment
Scratch-and-sniff boeuf bourguignon meal patch for flights without free hot meals and;
Champagne gummies for flights without free champagne
The boxes will be given away via a vending machine at an event at The Grove shopping center in Los Angeles on March 24 (with a few golden tickets good for two round-trip tickets on Air France in the mix), but the rest of us can enter to win a box of goodies by entering an online sweepstakes.